"One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family.
'You aren't going to catch many fish that way,' said the businessman. 'You should be working rather than lying on the beach!' The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, 'And what will my reward be?'
'Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!' was the businessman's answer. 'And then what will my reward be?' asked the fisherman again.
The businessman replied, 'You will make money and you'll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!' 'And then what will my reward be?'
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman's questions. 'You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!' he said. 'And then what will my reward be?'
The businessman was getting angry. 'Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!' Once again the fisherman asked, 'And then...what will my reward be?'
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, 'Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!' The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, 'And what do you think I am doing right now?'"
(Original story by Heinrich Böll)
Happiness—what is it?
'When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.'-Helen Keller
I have never really made an effort to understand happiness. My living is made by explaining fear in all its complexities and my life has been spent fighting this myself. Happiness came and went in between those moments as if it was the frivolous emotion that only meant to link the grand moments in life rather than be the grand moments in life.
I remember vividly every time I've been afraid, but not every time I've been happy.
The above story has stayed with me since I read it over ten years ago. It shocked me. I've always worked 150% to succeed in everything I put my hand to. But there are moments in those long hard working hours that I've simply stopped and realised that my definition of happiness is completely and utterly skewed.
Does happiness lay in success at work? Or in our relationships around us?
I'm an over-worker. I will spend 21 days straight working 14 hour days to make something great at work. I see it as necessary—how else can you be the director of a theatre company for kids?
But I don't place this effort into my relationships with God, my family, my friends or even my boyfriend. It's not something I even considered before. I don't place it in the little moments: of reading a good book by a serene river; watching a great movie with friends; sharing memories with others.
Instead, my brain never switches off work. Perhaps, it's time that it did.
At the beginning of the year, I attended the funeral of the previous headmistress of the school I work at. She was an incredible woman whom I looked up to professionally and as a woman in business and education. I'd met her as a student and she had always remembered my and everybody's names. She was at every event and she was every girl's champion at that school.
Unfortunately, we lost her to the evil that is cancer.
As we all grieved collectively at her memorial service, a family member said something that resonated deeply with me. He told us, at the end of her life her biggest regret was that she had worked too much. That she had never realised that things could wait.
Things can wait. People cannot. And it is the people that God calls us to love.
'Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.' - Bertolt Brecht
As Australians, I think we make this worse with tall poppy syndrome. By pulling others down in a constant 'it's-just-a-joke' fashion', we don't ever stop to consider that we are consistently making others unhappy. For such a beautiful nation full of kind people, it seems at odds with our world-renowned nature of laid back simple happiness.
How do we rectify this with a belief in a God who calls us to care? To love? And most of all, to show and cover this world in his grace?
It goes against everything in me—as someone whose days are focused on anxiety, on the complexities of fear and the Australianism that is tall poppy syndrome—to seek and share happiness.
But I will choose it. I am choosing it. And what a life it will be.
Talisa Pariss is the co-ordinator of the school-based Louder Theatre Company, teaching drama, communication skills and confidence to kids. When she's not pretending for a living, she can be found indulging in any kind of creativity she can get her hands on.
Talisa Pariss' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/talisa-pariss.html